Hogarth Shakespeare re-tellings project adds more authors

Authors Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobson, and Tracy Chevalier have come on board to retell various Shakespeare plays in novel form.

Courtesy of Sven Arnstein/Dutton
Tracy Chevalier will retell 'Othello' for the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

More acclaimed authors have signed on for the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

As we previously reported, the Random House publishing imprint Hogarth announced this past summer that it would be publishing a series of novels in which modern-day authors would adapt some of Shakespeare’s most famous stories as novels. The series would kick off in 2016 (the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) and “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal” writer Jeanette Winterson and “Breathing Lessons” author Anne Tyler were two of the first to sign on, Winterson to adapt “The Winter’s Tale” and Tyler to take on “The Taming of the Shrew.”

As noted by Monitor contributor Bruna Lobato, the publisher also announced recently that Jo Nesbø, author of the “Harry Hole” series, will be adapting “Macbeth” for Hogarth.

Authors Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobson, and – the newest addition – Tracy Chevalier have also joined the project. Atwood has chosen “The Tempest,” while Jacobson went with “The Merchant of Venice” and Chevalier will retell Othello.

“The Tempest has always been a favourite of mine, and working on it will be an invigorating challenge,” Atwood said of her choice in a statement. “Is Caliban the first talking monster? Not quite, but close.”

Meanwhile, Jacobson noted that his play of choice is a controversial one.

“For an English novelist Shakespeare is where it all begins,” he said in a statement. “For an English novelist who also happens to be Jewish The Merchant of Venice is where it all snarls up. ‘Who is the merchant and who is the Jew?’ Portia wanted to know.  Four hundred years later, the question needs to be reframed: ‘Who is the hero of this play and who is the villain?’ And if Shylock is the villain, why did Shakespeare choose to make him so? Only a fool would think he has anything to add to Shakespeare. But Shakespeare probably never met a Jew, the Holocaust had not yet happened, and anti-Semitism didn’t have a name. Can one tell the same story today, when every reference carries a different charge? There’s the challenge. I quake before it.”

And Chevalier noted that the protagonist in the drama of her choice has some characteristics that are familiar to her.

“Othello is essentially about being an outsider and the price you pay for that difference,” she said in a statement. “Most of the protagonists in my novels are outsiders, geographically or mentally, so writing Othello’s story was an irresistible opportunity.”

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